By Archibong Jeremiah
As part of activities marking the 2020 World Mangrove Day in Cross River State, Integrated Mangrove Watch Association of Nigeria (IMWAN) has called on the three tie of Government to become practical in mangrove ecosystem defense.
IMWAN in collaboration with Integrated Mangrove Forest and Livelihood in Nigeria (IMFOMALIN) project at an event marking the day in Calabar divulged that, human activities in the mangrove areas are on the increase and needs immediate action.
This year’s theme “for nature” was described as suiting in separate comments by the resource persons maintaining that, mangrove host Communities are the first line defenders and must wake up from their slumber else nothing will be left for generations to come.
It was also exposed at the event aimed at raising awareness on the importance of protecting mangrove and supporting its host Communities that the Cross River State Calas Vegas project is sited in the mangrove.
According to Prof. Austin Ogogo, Special Adviser on Climate Change to the Cross River State Governor, Sen. Ben Ayade who presented the first paper, “the mangrove forest of Nigeria is the 3rd largest in the world, largest in African and over 60 percent of this mangrove occurs in Niger Delta.
“Mangrove Communities shouldn’t take their mangroves for granted. Mangrove ecosystem is an area with high deposits, mangroves are rich in carbon. Mangroves clean the earth for us and we should keep it. It’s a breeding ground for different species of creatures.”
He decried that in as much as many depend on mangroves for economic reason the negative impact should be at hindsight. Adding that, “deforestation is a big problem in preservation of our mangrove. The source of charcoal is the mangrove tree, the source of our woods used for building and many other purposes are mangrove trees and these pose some challenge.
“The introduction of Niger palm has killed the ecosystem of our mangroves. Mangroves encourages biodiversity while Niger palm destroys biodiversity. Oil exploration and exploitation is another killer of mangroves, from time to time oil spills and kills mangrove trees and other species.
“Tourism is another challenge, when tourist keeps visiting and stepping on the mangrove soil it hardens and doesn’t allow the fruit to birth and germinate. Their waste as well will litter the environment and has its own effect. Farming is another because of the shifting cultivation.
“The Government has a role to play, as of now there is no policy on the protection of the mangroves within Cross River State and Niger Delta. We don’t have a policy, there should be a Mangrove Park, Mangrove National Park. The Federal Government should create Mangrove National Park.
“We must start engaging Communities on what they need to stop destroying our ecosystem, there must be political will. Universities too has a lot of role to play by researching within the Communities, some researches have been done by the likes of Okpiliya but more needs to be done.”
On her part, CP Caroline Olory, Conservator of National Park Service Cross River State who also presented a paper said “deforestation is not happening in Cross River State alone, it’s happening globally, all over the world.
“Mangrove forest provide mainly ecosystem services. Fruits, fuel, timbre are all gotten from the mangroves. If we continue the way we are going, soon we will not have them anymore.
“We need to look inward for protection measures. The Cross River State Calas Vegas project basically is in the mangrove forest, correct me if I’m wrong. Conservation simply means utilizing what we have so that while we benefit the current generation, it should still maintain potentials to benefit future generation.”
She further stated that “even if Nigeria ranks first among eight countries that have large mangrove reserves, this is behind Indonesia, Brazil and Australia. Even if Nigeria has this, unfortunately Nigeria is the country that does not have a recognized mangrove reserve.
“Creation of a National Park is a project that begins from the State. Communities are the first line defenders of mangrove. The resources are fast going. There must be integrated mangrove management and livelihood, there must be a balance.”
Earlier, Rev. Anthony Offiong Essien, Executive Director, Integrated Mangrove Watch Association of Nigeria (IMWAN) in his welcome address reiterated that “mangrove ecosystems are highly effective carbon sinks, sequestering vast amounts or carbon within the soil, leaves, branches, roots, etc.They sequester about five times more carbon per unit area than any other forest ecosystem known as blue carbon.
“One hectare of mangrove can store 3.754 tons of carbon; it’s the equivalent or taking 2, 650 plus cars off the road for one vear (UNESCO, 2015). In the context of climate change miugation, the role of mangroves as carbon sinks has become more apparent.
“AIso, each year, marine plants produce more than a half of our atmosphere’s oxygen and a mature tree cleans our air, absorbing 22 kilos of carbon dioxide, releasing oxygen in exchange.
“If destroyed, degraded or lost these coastal ecosystems become sources of Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. Experts estimate that carbon emissions from mangrove deforestation account for up to 10% of emissions from deforestation globally, despite covering just 0.7% of land coverage.”
On his part, Mr. Ebiye Dorgu, IMFOMALIN Project Coordinator said “the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund (CEPF) is funding the Integrated Mangrove Forest Management and Livelihood in Nigeria (IMFOMALN) Project in Cross River State which has the third largest Mangrove in the world. This is implemented by United Purpose through and its partners, IMWAN in 15 communities of Akpabuyo, Calabar South and Odukpani LGAs.
“IMFOMALIN Project is working with selected coastline communities to regenerate the mangroves, as well as provide sources of alternative livelihood, such as agro-businesses for mangrove dependent Communities, in order to reduce mangrove deforestation.”
The International Day for Mangrove is celebrated yearly on 26 July adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO in 2015.
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